Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Volterra and Montecatini Terme are all destinations in Tuscany that can be done on easy day trips from Florence. On a day trip to one of these towns in Tuscany you will be able to see awesome, authentic, medieval towns and villages that complement the iconic and well-visited city of Florence.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 18 JAN 2020
Tuscany in Italy has an abundance of things to offer that can easily be done as day trips from Florence. The region has a wide range of Tuscan landscapes varying between the more mountainous areas … to soft, green hills, marshes and wetlands. Whether you are after breathtaking sceneries, vineyards and wine tasting, decorative cypresses, picturesque olive orchards and olive oil tasting at one of the rustic farms, you will find it in Tuscany.
Moreover, the region is everywhere full of intriguing history spanning from ancient Roman or medieval culture to the influence of important Italian families like the Medici dynasty.
Being based in Florence, you can easily go on one or more day trips to enticing places around Tuscany. Here are our suggestions for 5 awesome day trips from Florence to charming small towns in the Tuscany region.
5 Day Trips from Florence in Tuscany
1. Day trips from Florence: Montecatini Terme
Just on the southern edge of the Apennine Range in the province of Pistoia in the northern Tuscany you arrive at the small municipality Montecatini Terme. The place is renowned for and named after the thermal sources in the area. Their health effects have drawn people to this location for hundreds of years.
It is easy to go on day trips between the cities in Tuscany and get from Florence to Montecatini by train. There are frequent train connections (around every 30 minutes) from Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station.
After buying your ticket in the ticket machine in Florence, you will jump on the the train towards Viareggio in western Tuscany – and 50 minutes later, you will arrive in Montecatini. There are notably two stations in Montecatini. Get off on the Montecatini Centro Station which is nearer to central Montecatini than the Montecatini Terme-Monsummano Station. Check timetable and fares.
Alternatively, you may opt to go by bus from Florence on your day trip. Check out the timetable and fares for the busradar.com.
1. Visit a thermal bath
Visit one of the thermal baths of Terme Excelsior, Terme Tettuccio, Terme Regina or Terme Redi. The water in the thermal baths come from the earth depths of limestone, clay and jasper and have long be known to have treating effects. Still today the therapeutic properties of the waters are being widely recognised. The thermal baths attract Italians and foreign tourists to the small Tuscan town which on top of the thermal wonders features an outstanding architecture around the fountains.
2. Have a spa experience at a terme
Treat yourself to a spa experience at one of the termes. To be a spa guest here is to enjoy a moment of physical and mental relaxation in a 33 degrees centigrade (91 degrees Fahrenheit) hot bath. Allow yourself to get a hydropinic therapy massage, inhalation therapies or a thermal mud treatment. Moreover, you will find yourself in the midst of amazing architectural heritage from Montecatini’s first heyday in the beginning of the last century.
3. Study Italian architecture
Study amazing Italian architecture. Buildings worthy of a visit count the Teatro Verdi from 1829, renovated in 1981, and the Padiglioncino Tamerici from 1902 in a pronounced Art Nouveau style.
4. Walk the Walk of Fame
Notice also the Walk of Fame along the pavement of Viale Giuseppe Verdi. It shows the names of famous people who have visited Montecatini Terme throughout the years.
5. Shop in fashionable and regional stores
Indulge in shopping in the Montecatini designer stores full of iconic brands in the streets around Piazza del Popolo. Enter the local shops offering a wide range of alluring products from Tuscany and taste the specialities from the small villages and farms in the Florentine region. Whether you go for Tuscan wine, regional olive oil, olive wood kitchen utensils or Italian biscuits and cakes, the offer is immense.
6. Take the funicular to Montecatini Alto
Take the small funicular from Montecatini Terme up to Montecatini Alto on the summit of the mountain. The ride is a spectacular steep ride up through the mountainous landscape with breathtaking views of Montecatini and its surrounding plain, olive orchards and occasional fruit trees. You may even stand outside at the back of the cable car to get even better views!
The old settlement in Montecatini Alto used to be a fortress (Borgo Montecatini Alto) dating back to medieval times with a strategic location way above the lower marshlands. Remains of the fortress walls still surround the old village and its churches. A few of the original 25 towers have remained including a clock tower.
Today it is a picturesque small hilltop village with shops, restaurants and cafés. Don’t deprive yourself of a couple of hours in the mountain village. An alternative way to get to the top (or down) is to hike which will take around 45 minutes (it is a bit steep!)
Instead of making the trip one of your day trips from Florence, you may also consider staying in a hotel here.
2. Day trips from Florence: Lucca
Probably founded by the Etruscans, Lucca is an ancient city in the northern Tuscany, west of Florence. It is a place rich in Roman and medieval history and absolutely worthy of a visit as one of the top Tuscan towns – a real gem. It is known as the city of a hundred churches due to the large number of religious buildings, and is the birthplace of the composer Giacomo Puccini. You can definitely not see everything in one day – but with a bit of planning you can on a day trip (from Florence or some else in Tuscany) get a real good impression of what the remarkable walled town has to offer. You will be able to walk through centuries of Tuscan history and culture and see some of Lucca’s prime churches and towers.
You should definitely also consider Lucca as one of your day trips from Florence. If you continue by train from Montecatini in direction of Viareggio, you will arrive in Lucca within half an hour. From Florence the trip is 1 hour and 20 minutes if you catch the right train without any changes. Check timetable and fares. From Lucca Station you can easily walk to the old town of Lucca, situated within the massive stone walls.
For your day trip you may alternatively want to take a bus from Florence to Lucca. View timetable and fares for the busradar.com
1. Walk or bike the rampart
Walk or bike on the old medieval town wall. You can easily rent a bicycle when arriving. Lucca has a uniquely conserved 4 km (2.5 miles) stretch of walkway on the rampart encircling the old town. The panoramic views from up there allow for a different perspective of Lucca and it is a cherished place for a Sunday walk.
The town walls are 12 metres (40 feet) high and around 30 metres (100 feet) at their thickest points at the impressive town gates. You can enter the old town through the gates or through amazing tunnels in the walls. The town walls were constructed by Flemish people between 1504 and 1645 to protect the town. During the 19th century Napoleon’s sister, Maria Luigia of Bourbon, turned the fortifications into a public garden.
2. Visit the Duomo – the San Martino Cathedral
Enter the Duomo in the Piazza San Martino. The Cathedral was initiated in the 11th century and was again redesigned in the Gothic style during the 14th century Renaissance. It features stunning architecture and an only half finished bell tower, the campanile, as well as a marble façade of white, red and green marble. All columns on the façade are different since it is the mix of all the contributions in an architectural competition back in time. The Cathedral has a beautiful inside and keeps in the nave a small shrine with the Holy Face of Lucca, the most precious relic in Lucca, in Italian the Volto Santo di Lucca. The Cathedral is a real gem which you definitely should find time to visit!
3. Have coffee at the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro
Once a Roman amphitheatre, the elliptical square is still surrounded by the original medieval buildings in the shade of yellow, cream and orange, dotted with green shutters. It used to be the scene of both brutal gladiator games and cheerful spectacles.
The elliptical-shaped plaza was initiated in the 1st century under the Emperor Claudius and completed during the Flavian period. With time it became a place for assemblies from where it got its second name ‘Parlascio’ derived from ‘parlare’ – to talk.
Later on it was fortified, and the arch openings were closed such that the square was in general no longer easily accessible. It also became a powder magazine and a salt store, as well as many other things.
In the 18th century it was again brought back to the shape of an open oval space used as a market place – the Piazza del Mercato.
Today, the ambiance on the square is lively with plentiful cafés and restaurants offering outdoor seating. It is really the heart of Lucca and a must-see while you are here! Take in the square from one of the enticing restaurants or cafés.
4. Visit San Michele in Foro
One of the hightlights in Lucca is the San Michele in Foro (in Foro means in the market) at the Piazza San Michele, a Roman basilica dating back to before year 800. The first church was built over the ancient Roman forum. The current structure was initiated during the 11th century.
The campanile with its single, double and triple windows is from the 12th century and the façade was added in the 13th century. On the right side of the façade a statue of the Madonna salutis portus stands, sculpted by Civitali at the end of the Black Death in 1476.
Today, the church appears in a combination of Romansque and Gothic style. The façade is adorned with numerous sculptures, blind arcades and intriguing columns which are all different. On the very top you will find the statue of St. Michael, the Archangel.
5. Discover the Guinigi Tower
One of the very special places in Lucca is the Torre Guinigi rising way above all other surrounding buildings. It is one among numerous towers in Lucca – but it remarkably stands out featuring a rooftop oak tree garden! With its 45 metres’ height (148 feet), it is clearly visible above the other roofs. It is one of the original medieval towers, belonging to private families, which has not been destroyed throughout the years. The Guinigi family initiated the construction of family towers already in the 14th century – and today even a street in Lucca is named after the family – the Via Guinigi.
6. Participate in a festival
If you come to Lucca at the right time of the year, you may experience the summer festival in July or the Lucca Comics & Games in autumn (usually October/November). It is a major cosplaying event where people dress up in the costumes of their favourite comics characters and where cartoons surprisingly come to life in the quaint medieval setting.
Instead of doing the trip as one of your day trips from Florence, you may of course consider getting a hotel here to stay a bit longer.
3. Day trips from Florence: Siena
Il Duomo, the Cathedral, is the black and white icon of Siena. In accordance with the legend, black and white have always been the city’s colours. They symbolise the black and white horses belonging to Siena’s two founders, Senius and Aschius.
According to the myth, the fabled duo Senius and Aschius were Siena’s founders. The myth is highly intertwined with the mythology related to the foundation of Rome by the siblings Romulus and Remus, since Senius and Aschius are said to be sons of Remus. In this way Siena’s emblem has become the famous wolf that suckled the two boys. A statue of the wolf stands on a column in front of the Cathedral.
It is easy to reach Siena from Florence on one of your day trips in Tuscany. You can go to Siena from Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station by train in 1 hour 30 minutes. From Siena Station you can walk to Piazza del Campo in about 20-25 minutes. You may also want to jump on a city bus from the station to the city centre.
Alternatively, you may for your day trip opt to go from Florence to Siena by bus. In Florence buses leave from the bus terminal, Via Santa Caterina da Siena, near the Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station. Depending on taking a Rapida or Ordinaria bus it will take between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the timetable and fare
1. Take a stroll round the Piazza del Campo
The Piazza del Campo is Siena’s heart and the world-famous medieval square from before the 13th century, set on sloping ground at the meeting point of 3 hillside communities. Initially, it was a marketplace. It was designed in fishbone-patterned red brick, interrupted by 8 lines of travertine, dividing the shell-shaped square into 9 sections. Each section would represent one of The Nine (Governo dei Nove) who ruled Siena back in medieval times.
Moreover, this piazza flanked by the beautiful Palazzo Pubblico is the site for the biannual Palio di Siena where riders and horses compete in a most spectacular discipline doing 3 laps around the earth-filled square. The race is a real crowd-puller which attracts people from near and far. Ten horses and jockeys riding bareback symbolise 10 of Siena’s city wards and the competition between them.
2. See Fonte Gaia
At the side of the Piazza del Campo you will find Fonte Gaia, inaugurated in 1346. There was great satisfaction that fresh water was now being conveyed to the piazza. As a result of this, the fountain was named ‘Gaia’ (meaning joyful). It was created in a style that had at the same time Gothic and Renaissance elements. It was later decorated with reliefs by a local sculptor Jacopo della Quercia (1374-1438).
The Sienese have always admired it as a work of art of rare beauty. However, the original piece of work by Jacopo della Quercia is now on display in the old Ospedale di St. Maria della Scala. Anyway, still today, people flock to see the beautiful fountain in the heart of Siena.
3. Discover the hidden gems
Meander through the narrow streets and discover fascinating details from the city’s medieval past. There is a reason why Siena is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only few places in the whole of Italy have such a uniqueness of medieval ambiance and gems as Siena. On every new street corner you get yet another glimpse of an authentic picture-postcard setting. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Tuscany – definitely worthy of a day trip from Florence.
4. Visit the Duomo
Find your way to the Duomo (completed in 1264) – the cathedral with the characteristic black and white campanile, Siena’s colours – a construction of paramount importance to Siena. The facade is an Italian Gothic masterpiece by Giovanni Pisano. The Cathedral is a construction of red, green and white marble inlay. As a symbol of Siena the mythic she-wolf statue is overlooking the square in front of the Cathedral.
The interior is as striking and awe-inspiring as the outside impression. Black and white striped columns, a lavishly painted ceiling. It is complemented by a unique stained-glass rose window and outstanding marble mosaic floors. Moreover, the Cathedral features statues by both Michelangelo and Bernini. Another highlight is the carved marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano.
In the Piccolómini Library housing 15th century musical manuscripts, impressive coloured frescoes adorn the walls and the ceiling painted in the beginning of the 16th century by Pinturicchio. Also the Baptistery and the Crypt deserve a visit.
You may also find time to visit the Duomo Museum with phenomenal cathedral art.
5. Climb the Torre del Mangia
The city tower, Torre del Mangia is the highest tower (102 m / 335 ft) in Tuscany, located in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, adjacent to the town hall, Palazzo Pubblico. It was built in 1338-1348 and was at the time one of the tallest secular towers in Italy. The tower had the same height as Siena Cathedral – a sign that the church and the state were equal at that time! After climbing the 400 steps, the views of Siena are fabulous from the top!
6. Visit the Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico
The fascinating Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico majestically rises over the city of Siena. It is a very impressive construction which can be seen from many places in town. The basilica was begun in 1226–1265, but was remodelled in the 14th century giving it its Gothic appearance. It is shaped as an Egyptian Cross. By design the basilica has a large edifice, originally built for the Merchant Orders.
Notice also the paintings and frescoes made by Francesco di Giorgio, Bernardino Fungai and Matteo di Giovanni.
The bell tower next to the church has its own history. Its height was in 1798 reduced due to an earthquake.
Instead of doing the trip as just one of your day trips from Florence, you could also book a hotel here for a couple of days to have more time to explore Siena.
4. Day trips from Florence: San Gimignano
From the walled town of San Gimignano 14 medieval towers rise towards the sky. They were raised by prominent families to show their wealth and position in society. The town obtained status as independent in 1199. Merchants and noble families competed to build the tallest tower houses in San Gimignano. However, the Bishop and Town Council had to enforce a law that restricted the height of the towers. No tower could exceed the Town Hall tower in height.
Originally, there were 72 tower constructions within the walls, but a lot of them have been lost during the last centuries. It can be noted that the town had actually two walls. An interior wall from the 10th century, and an exterior one from the 13th century, constructed to reinforce the fortification. Today, you can still see traces of both walls.
San Gimignano used to be conveniently located along the pilgrim trail, Via Francigena, to Rome, and therefore loads of pilgrims came to the small hillside community. It thrived for many years – right until the plague arrived in 1348 and drastically reduced the population. It led to a weakening of the small town and its economy – and eventually, after 1353, it came under Florentine control.
You should definitely also consider San Gimignano for one of your day trips from Florence. There is a direct train connection from Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Poggibonsi-San Gimignano which takes slightly more than an hour if you catch the connection without any changes. From the station you can either take the bus or a taxi the short distance to San Gimignano.
Alternatively, for your day trip you can also take the bus from Florence bus station (next to the train station, Via Santa Caterina da Siena) to Poggibonsi where you will again change bus (likely the bus # 130 – but check up on it just to be sure) for the last stretch of road to San Gimignano. The advantage of taking the bus is that you will not need to buy both a train and a bus ticket, but will do with a bus ticket. Check the timetable and fare
1. Take a self-guided walking tour
Take a self-guided walking tour round the walled city. It is absolutely unique with preserved medieval urban structures of streets, squares, fountains, palaces and a multitude of towers against the horizon. Since 1990 it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover the two central squares, Piazza del Duomo, with 3 towers directly located on the square and Piazza della Cisterna. The latter is a fine triangular plaza with an ancient octagonal well (the word Cisterna comes from this well) and towers like the Tower of Pellari Palace and Ardighelli Tower (Devil Tower).
Among all the towers you will notice the twin towers Torre Gemelle (or the Salvucci Towers). Since no tower could exceed the Town Hall tower, they are, though, built with an illusion of being taller! When you see them from a certain angle behind each other, they appear as ONE tower, taller than the Town Hall.
Absorb the medieval ambiance and get tempted by the local Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine (unique to San Gimignano), olive oil, leatherwork, olive wood bowls and other products in the shops. You will probably also come across a Tuscan restaurant or two where you would like to have lunch or dinner – maybe you will try food specialities like truffles or wild boar.
2. See the Pinacoteca
Visit the Pinacoteca inside the Town Hall which is part of the Civic Museum (together with Palazzo Comunale and Torre Grossa). It displays masterpieces from the artistic history in San Gimignano – everything from the Florentine style and Sienese period to Renaissance works.
The Town Hall itself is an interesting and beautiful construction from the end of the 13th century.
3. Climb the Torre Grossa
Torre Grossa is the highest tower in San Gimignano (54 m / 177 ft) from around 1300. It is located on the Piazza del Duomo next to the Town Hall. From the top you will get the most spectacular views of the surrounding Elsa Valley and landscape.
4. Have a closer look at Torre dei Cugnanesi
Torre dei Cugnanesi is also centrally located just behind the Piazza della Cisterna at the intersection of Via di San Giovanni and Via del Quercecchio. It is one of the highest towers in San Gimignano from the 13th century. It had together with the impressive Palazzo Cugnanesi a defending function and was part of the old gate, the Becci Arch. In this way it differs a bit from the other towers in town.
5. Visit the Duomo
No visit to San Gimignano without visiting the Duomo with three naves and outstanding artwork. The Cathedral, the Duomo or Basilica Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta from 1148 features magnificent and impressive frescoes in Florentine style. It was remodelled in its present form in the 13th century. As also known from the Duomo in Siena, the interior decor is alternating black and white marble. These are the colours of Siena. There is gold, red and white as well in the decoration of the arches.
Most of the style inside the Basilica is Romanesque. Only two chapels from a later time period have been constructed in a Renaissance style. Sienese painters (among others Bartolo di Fredi) have decorated the church with frescoes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
6. Try the best gelato in the world
You will need to stop at Gelateria Dondoli which has a master gelato maker who is an award winning world champion in gelato! Don’t just restrict yourself to the ordinary flavours – try something as exotic as ‘cream with saffron and pine nuts’, ‘pink grapefruit and sparkling wine’ or some of the other delicious flavours. Everything is homemade – and the line is often long! Sit at the historic well and enjoy your treat!
Instead of just doing the trip as one of your day trips from Florence, why not stay in a hotel here to get more time?
5. Day trips from Florence: Volterra
Volterra is an ancient Etruscan town, probably the first Etruscan metropolis, located in the core of Tuscany on top of a naturally defended hilltop. It is an important Tuscan town, featuring both medieval, Medicean and Grand-ducal local history – and unarguably one of the most intriguing and beautiful Tuscan towns today. Volterra is surprisingly free of the throngs of tourists to be found in the nearby San Gimignano.
Going from Florence to Volterra is most easily done by car, so if you haven’t already got a car available, a rental car is the best option for the day trip. You will be driving through an amazingly scenic hillside landscape on your way to the Etruscan hilltop town of medieval military architecture and Roman rule.
You may alternatively opt to take a bus from Florence to Volterra for your day trip. View the timetable.
1. View the Porta all’Arco
Enjoy the stunnings views from the 7 km (4.5 miles) long and unapproachable fortification walls of the valleys of Era and Cecina. From the peak you have a scenic view of the surrounding landscape and you might even be as lucky as to catch a surprising glimpse of the Mediterranean on the horizon.
Enter the ancient town on the other side of the enclosure. The Etruscan gate at Via Porta all’Arco is probably considered the most important historical site in Volterra. At this gate you enter the town of Volterra through the old town wall. The Roman arch is rich in history since there are also medieval remains around it, as well as three sculpted heads (notably lion-heads) dating back to the fourth or third centuries BC.
2. Enter the Palazzo dei Priori
Continue to the Piazza dei Priori with the town hall of the same name (Palazzo dei Priori) from 1208. It is the oldest civic building in all Tuscany and probably an example for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence! It used to be the residence of the presiding priors, right until the Medici conquered Volterra in 1472. You may even climb the Palazzo tower to get a magnificent view of Volterra.
3. Visit the Duomo
Right behind the Palazzo dei Priori you will find the Duomo, the delightful cathedral, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It is a 12th century Romanesque church, characterised by a beautiful portal, an impressive rose window, as well as intriguing interior decorations. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1117 after an earthquake that destroyed large parts of Volterra.
You may well already have noticed the bell tower when arriving in Volterra – as it can be viewed from afar. It is separated from the Cathedral by the chapel of the Virgin Mary. In 1493 it was rebuilt since the original tower collapsed.
Just in front of the Cathedral, you will spot the fine octagonal Baptistery of San Giovanni from the 13th century, also a landmark in Volterra.
4. See alabaster production
The ingenious Etruscans produced decorative works of art where they exploited the abundant natural mineral resources found in the area. They used the alabaster to make sarcophagi and cinerary urns to bury their dead.
Still today, the craftsmen are creative in their use of the minerals and produce all kinds of alabaster products which they sell in the local shops. Pop into some of the small shops to find an alabaster souvenir or two – among olive wood products, Tuscan wine and truffles. You may even go to visit one of the artists working in his studio to see the creation process. Visit for instance the alabaster workshop ‘The Alab’Arte’ at Via Orti Sant’Agostino.
5. Visit the Etruscan Guarnacci Museum
(closes earlier in winter. Check the hours)
As a real gem Volterra features an outstanding museum. The Etruscan Guarnacci Museum contains a magnificent collection of tombs, urns and alabaster sarcophagi found in Volterra from the Etruscan era. It was a burial tradition to place the ashes in a cinerary urn inside a sarcophagus. The museum presents absolutely phenomenal examples of such tombs and sarcophagi on the ground floor.
The first floor features a beautiful collection of Roman mosaics from buildings in Volterra and a comprehensive collection of coins, among others Etruscan coins in gold, silver and bronze, as well as Roman Republican and Imperial coins. The cremation tombs have been found in the necropolis and a vast majority of the other items on display are also found within the city enclosure.
The museum is really brilliant to get an impression of ancient Etruscan life!
6. See the Roman Theatre
(closes early in winter. Check the hours)
A fine Roman Theatre dating from the first century AD can be accessed via Porta San Francesco. You will see 19 tiers of seating ingeniously built into the hill and an orchestra pit. Moreover, there are two stories supported by marble columns that still stand.
7. Visit the Enrico Fiumi Archaeological park
(Only open during weekends in winter. Check the opening hours)
Volterra has still many traces from the early Etruscan settlements and the later Roman rule. From the 9th century BC Etruscan settlements dominated the area. A real Etruscan acropolis is located inside the local Enrico Fiumi Archaeological park. The excavations of the acropolis began in 1926 and revealed both baths, a cistern, a plumbing system and two temples with a podium and a colonnade.
Next to the Archaeological Park you will see the impressive landmark, the Fortezza Medicea (still standing from the time the Medici family controlled and protected the area), which is being used as a state prison today. The interior is therefore not open to visitors.
Instead of planning the trip to Volterra as one of your day trips from Florence, you could also opt to stay longer and book a hotel here.
Read more about day trips in Tuscany: Visit Volterra – One of the Authentic Villages in Tuscany and Take in Lucca – A Top Tuscan Town
Check also our Best Things to Do in Florence – What to See in 3 Days out!
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